“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur
Looking at “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur there is an extensive amount of entrapment imagery from the get go. I noticed that right off the bat as Wilbur describes his daughter’s room as a place where “light breaks,” (2) which is because the windows are covered with linden, a tree with yellow and white flowers that can grow pretty quickly. His daughter is shut in her room and all outsiders can hear is the noise of the keyboards. Wilbur uses the simile: “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) when comparing her to her work on the keyboard. Literally the chain is holding the gunwale or the upper edge of the vessel from moving. Figuratively, his daughter is trapped in her room with her work and the ever changing noises of her keyboard. This entrapment imagery continues over to the next creature locked in the room which is sterling, a type of bird. This bird was trapped in this same room a few years earlier. And again the rest of the people watched from a far as the creature was locked in the room. I compared the bird and the daughter. Ironically, while this bird is trapped in the room, the narrator and others watch the bird entrapped, confused, and struggling to break free. Isn’t this similar to teenagers and their relationship with their parents? When do parents know to step into their adolescent’s lives and when they should let them ride it out? I feel that in both scenarios with the daughter and the bird it connects to someone just watching and no actions are actually being done. The narrator watched both his daughter and the bird from afar while they are alone and entrapped not only physically in that room but also mentally. Parents never know when is a good time to step into a child’s life or that room while instead they have this figurative barrier that they try not to touch.
There is also a lot of traveling imagery, which I connected to a rite of passage for both the daughter and the bird. Wilbur connects the area of the daughter’s room to the “prow,” a boat reference, to the location of the room in the house. The simile: “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) also corresponds with that ongoing theme because a gunwale is the upper edge of the load of a ship or the side of a vessel. The narrator figuratively compares her life to a great cargo and hopes that her future will be a lucky passage. When I first read this stanza, I immediately imagined a passage over water; moreover, my mind went to the archetypical reference of the journey over water; a semblance of a rite of passage for this girl. As I kept reading, I was able to connect this rite of passage or journey to the bird too. The narrator talks about the bird overcoming all its hardships “And clearing the sill of the world.” (30) Moreover, the bird is getting ready to move forward on its journey into the real world. It is now able to break free.